Tantrums? Resistance? Discipline? Exhaustion? These are some of the things parents say are the hardest to deal with when it comes to raising kids. I don’t think these come close to the biggest challenge of all – time.
There never seems to be enough of it, not to mention the different forms it can take. There is time that moves too fast as you track a child’s height measurements on the wall or see a younger version of them on your screensaver. From the pants and shoes they outgrow, to the grades they pass each year, time is hard to hold onto when you have a child.
Then there are moments that go too slow with kids, like taking care of them when they are sick or when they are in the middle of a tantrum. Time can slow down when you travel on a plane or car as you listen to their repeated iterations of “I have to go to the bathroom” or “are we there yet?”
There is time with them that we try to capture with photos and videos despite the futility of being able to hold them fast. From the goofy faces to red eyes, capturing them in time and space seems foolhardy.
There is also the time that is needed to make dinner, get them to school, clean up, and do homework. There also seems to be so little time for you, and the time that is most welcome is when you fall into your bed (or theirs), tired. There are the times in the night we are woken up with our worries about them, or their nightmares and tummy aches for us.
Time doesn’t wait until our child is done with a tantrum, has found their tears, or has decided that maybe the red socks will be fine to wear to school after all. Time speeds up when you are running late and especially as they make time move slower with their shuffling feet. Time waits for no one, including your boss at work or your child’s teacher at school.
The hardest thing to do sometimes is to make time for them. It means taking the time to just be present, play, or perhaps listen to them with undivided attention for a moment. It is these times that etch into their hearts and minds who we are to them and how we have cared for them.
What I have come to realize is that it isn’t time that is precious to me, but the people who fill it. The spaces that lie between the seconds and minutes are the ones I endeavour to fill with the people I care about. It is not time that shapes us, creates us, nor defines us but who or what we attach to in these spaces. There is one thing I am sure of when it comes to raising kids and that is we won’t likely regret spending time on them, in fact, it is often the case we regret never spending the time we have in the right places.
Dr. Deborah MacNamara is the author of Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (or anyone who acts like one), is on faculty at the Neufeld Institute, and Director of Kid’s Best Bet, a counselling and family resource center. For more information please see www.macnamara.wpengine.com and www.neufeldinstitute.org.